What do the words "seared," "bleared," and "smeared" suggest in "God's Grandeur"?

Quick answer:

The second stanza of the poem gives a clue to why people don't see the glory of God in nature: it's because they have been seared, smeared, and bleared by their own interaction with the world.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

These words come in the second stanza of the poem, which begins,

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod,

And all is seared with trade; smeared, bleared with toil

And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell ...

Searing is when something is slightly burned, marring its surface.  Searing of the skin or other body parts can create a rough scar which interferes with the body's ability to sense -- i.e. with the sense of sight, taste, or touch.  It damages the design of the body and disrupts the natural way it was meant to interact with the outside world.

Smearing and blearing both carry the sense of an oily or dirty smudge drawn across a previously clear surface.  In the case of "bleared," we usually hear the word describing "bleary" vision ... the human eye or some other lens has an impurity on the surface that distorts the image we are getting through the lens.  

"Seared" suggests injury.  "Smeared" and "bleared" suggest dirt or defilement.  All three words imply that something naturally beautiful has been damaged, and a sense of perception compromised.

These words are the explanation for why people cannot see the grandeur of God.  The first stanza has described how God's grandeur is immanent in the world and even obvious, then asks, "Why do men then now not reck His rod?"  In other words, why don't people obey Him?

Seared, smeared, and bleared give the answer.  There is something about the process of surviving as a human being in this world (engaging in "trade" and "toil") that injures and defiles people, interfering with their ability to perceive God's glory. 

Arguably, it is also the world itself that is seared, smeared, and bleared.  As we see in the third line, everything "wears man's smudge and shares man's smell."  By the very process of interacting with the world, people somehow diminish and defile it - rub the glory off it, so to speak. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial